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Obesity in children-as well as in adults-is caused by low metabolic activity, this further leads to accumulation of fats and calories that further causes inactivity. This condition is normally responsible for several diseases such as type 1 and 2 diabetes, cardiovascular risks, weakening of the circulatory system that leads to inactivity and generally children become undernourished. Obese children time and again have a high risk of getting high pertension and elevated insulin; these conditions increase the risks of these children getting cardiovascular disorders. Apart from these, childhood obesity increases cholesterol levels and this in turn will lead to heart conditions. Cholesterol mounts up in the blood vessels and this further leads to increase in blood pressure because of the blood clots in the system of the child. Against this background therefore, ‘the health effects of childhood obesity are grim and should therefore be prevented’ (Kromeyer, K 1999).
Childhood obesity has been a grave issue in our society today owing to the fact that the prevalence of the obesity pandemic has increased to epidemic levels. Overweight and or obesity (at times used interchangeably) is a condition where one has an unmanageable weight often due to excess consumption of calories and fats which is resultant to excess storage of the same. This by extension leads to poor or low metabolism hence increase in weight. More often than not, unhealthy eating (mostly of junk and fatty foods) and inactivity (no exercises) are contributory factors to this condition. Childhood obesity (this may include children and adolescents) has dire consequences on the health of our children and this also has social consequences that often could continue into adulthood (Ogden, L, 2000).
Type 2 diabetes is one of the conditions that one is at risk of when they are obese: normally when one has got fatty tissues, insulin can not function as it usually should, this malfunctioning leads to insulin resistance. The scariest risk is that overweight children have to rely on their bodies to provide the required insulin, this overworks the system and the required amount of insulin can not be met. Childhood obesity hastens adolescence, children become pubescent but this does not mean that they have fully developed (in age) to be referred to as adolescents. Type 2 diabetes can run in the family and research has also proven that it is more prevalent in some cultural cycles than in others. The metabolic syndrome is also a condition that if not detected early enough and prevented, then it can lead to diabetes. It is in general characterized by: high concentration of triglycerides, the patients’ blood sugar being very high, uptake of cholesterol, overweight and the blood pressure being high. The symptoms of this ailment are not easily noticeable at the earlier stages and are: blurred vision, the patient has an increased appetite, general body weakness and sores that take a long time to heal. In the long run, the kidney can be damaged and hence malfunction, poor vision, nerve breakdown and vascular complications. It is therefore important to stop a child’s weight from adding as soon as possible. Correcting this condition however is simply through physical activity and through healthy eating (Moyers P 2005).
High blood pressure: a person’s blood pressure is said to be high if the heart is working overtime that is, it is working harder than it should. Overweight and or obesity are a major cause of this condition. When one adds weight, from eating excessively fatty and high cholesterol foods, the cholesterol are deposited on the walls of the blood vessels and this therefore makes the blood passage narrow; this as a result leads to the heart being overworked to pass blood through. This condition may further lead to other diseases such as stroke, kidney failures and several heart conditions. Diseases such as stroke and high blood pressure may not be common at childhood but they may catch up with them at later ages. Sleep apnea is also related to high blood pressure and obesity and is a serious sleep abnormality (Wang G. 1999).
The body joints and muscles are usually supposed to support our body weights; when someone becomes overweight, the bones can not adequately support their weighs. Once one gets older, the children may have malformations or poor development, they may get fractures and pain at the joints and they also may always feel fatigued and the joints might bulge. Inactivity in children is not healthy, more often than not, obese children find it difficult to move or be active like their normal counterparts. When there is less movements, the bones and joints become weak and they may fracture; one of the direst consequences is that gradually, the child may become immobile. Immobility is the sole reason behind weak bones and when kids are overweight, they exert their body pressure on the bones (when they fall for instance) and they may easily break (Olshansky, J, A 2005).
Sleep apnea: it is normal at night to find obese children not breathing for a while-say for a few seconds-and when they suddenly wake, they struggle for breath. This happens at regular intervals throughout the night. When obese children lie to sleep, their throats narrow and this makes breathing difficult and they snore. This condition has grave consequences and therefore should not be taken lightly; children could get hyperactive, become constantly tired, have low concentration span, and have headaches in the morning just to mention but a few. Sleep is very important for a child’s development; when a child gets disturbed rest, this costs her healthy development and also, the metabolic rate reduces considerably. Slow metabolism results to accumulation of calories. Poor rest is also responsible for fatigue during the day and this reduces a child’s productivity including low concentration spans (Tremblay, M 2003).
Fatty liver: when fats accumulate around the liver, this condition is called fatty liver and is common among obese children, adolescents and those who are diabetic. Since the liver is responsible for such functions as detoxification and fat absorption, its inflammation has very bad effects on the normal functions of the body. The process of getting liver abnormalities are slow but catch up with an obese person later in life; such a child for example is at a higher risk of getting cirrhosis or any other terminal disease related to the liver. Liver condition patients are not easy to treat leave alone restore to health; this leaves a patient with the option of surgeries and the need for a liver donation; what is scary is that the rate of obesity prevalence is on the rise especially among children. The reality on the ground therefore is that in the near future, there will be so many young adults in dire need of liver donations; this is indeed a scary thought.
Skin eruptions: obesity has scores of effects on the skin; in obese people, there develop skin colorations around the groin, armpits and the neck. This is due to excess insulin deposits inside the body. When there is idle insulin in the human system, they wander around for the best places to deposit; these are areas (the neck, the groin and the armpit) that easily receive insulin. Skin pigments are not painful but they can be embarrassing or even uncomfortable to the victim. When obese children perspire, they easily get skin rushes due to irritations. These victims always seen to be more vulnerable to fungi infection than their counterparts who are not fat, fungi thrive in warm and humid environments and this is adequately provided for in fat people. These infections can be painful and they spread pretty fast (Sturm R. 2005).
Childhood obesity also has effects on the digestive system: normally, the digestive system needs fibers and healthy foods to allow peristalsis ( the process of food passage), when a child eats junk foods in excess, the digestive process becomes extremely difficult since absence of fibers means poor cleaning of the intestines. This condition also results to constipation which results to heartburns, gas pain and nausea; when constipation is severe, in some patients it may cause depression. Due to the excess deposit of fats and cholesterol, this is linked to a hormone called leptin that links overweight to faster development. This explains why obese children (and especially girls), reach puberty faster than those who are not overweight; early puberty is not healthy for these children since this means production of estrogen at an earlier age. The risk is that these children are at a higher vulnerability of getting breast cancer owing to the fact that they have stored estrogen in their systems longer than usual. Most of all, early puberty has more social effects than health effects, the fact that a child has developed faster that her peers can be devastating and she can then isolate herself, a factor that causes her to have social stigma (Joaness, R. 2003).
Abnormal development: while in girls the effects of obesity are early puberty, in boy child, it is delayed development. A girl child therefore nurses the social stigma of fast development while to a boy child; it is failing to develop at the same pace as others. These conditions in adolescents and children lead to emotional and social problems such as depression. Often, obese children can not cope with their healthier counterparts; they become centers of ridicule in schools and find a hard time to play and grow with the rest as their equals. Children have their self esteems lowered by their peers who can at times be cruel to them (by calling them names for instance) innocently; this gives them an inferiority complex syndrome and if not properly handled, it can be suicidal.
The remedies of childhood obesity are simply healthy diets and good physical activity: these two therapies are the best suitable and are helpful in reversing the negative health effects of obesity. The heart conditions drastically improve with good exercise and even cholesterol levels radically drop. Children should be taught how to make healthy meals and be educated on the advantages of eating healthy; this way, they will not easily resort to junk foods when hungry because they now know the evils of the same (Hofferth S, 2005).
At times, prevention of obesity may warrant change of lifestyles and environments; people tend to conform to their immediate settings-both at home, school or work- in order to identify with a specific group. In schools, there could be programs to encourage children to get involved in much physical activities (like taking long brisk walks though not strenuous and aerobics). At home, parents should ensure that screen time is reduced and sacrificed to exercises and again, parents and guardians can lead by example by eating healthy diets and getting on exercise programs. Schools are in the best position to eliminate obesity in children if you come to think of it; there are a lot of junk foods and fast foods sold in schools. This calls for the complete elimination of the fast food vending machines in schools and substituting these with school feeding programs; to enforce this, there should be an advisory board that ensures that high standards of food are guaranteed. Apart from this, the feeding program should be in line with the mission of the school (Hedley, A 1999).